Best Community Project 2022

Winner: Lightforce for The Lightforce Academy

Our vision at Lightforce is to empower a lighter, brighter future. Lighter in terms of the impact we have on our environment, and brighter in terms of the positive social impacts we have in communities. Our Lightforce Solar Training Academy is the ultimate manifestation of this vision in action. Through our partnerships (The Ministry of Social Development) we present opportunities to those that need them the most. Our academy programs are delivered in a very unique and empowering way. It’s hands-on and interactive resulting in an incredible learning experience with high levels of engagement and success for students.

What makes our Academy different is the heart and soul we’ve invested in the pastoral care element. From the outset, we knew that if we were going to genuinely empower our students (as per our core company value - to be “empowering empathisers”) we had to do things differently. We start by listening. Empathising with our student's individual stories, struggles, cultural backgrounds, hopes and dreams, to empower them to be the best versions of themselves they can be. To offer an inclusive, supportive, whanau-feel training space where everyone is equal. To let our students know they are supported, to show them that we believe in them and give them some hope that there is a brighter future is possible. We see amazing transformational change in our students, beyond learning the skills and knowledge for doing a job i.e. installing solar, when this is embedded from the outset.

Lightforce works with schools, iwi and other underrepresented groups as well as MSD to find students who register interest and successful applicants receive a scholarship to attend the Academy. The Ministry of Development provides Lightforce with $5k funding per student. Graduates receive a further $20k of further support [by MSD] At the conclusion of the Academy program, Lightforce or partners can employ the graduates as FTEs. A Cohort of 20 are chosen to undertake a 4 weeklong installation training program. The course is designed to secure a pipeline of talented workforce and help support underrepresented groups in the community. Current demand to partake in the Academy, from both the Ministry of Social Development and participants, far exceeds cohort availability. Significant forecast growth for the Academy is imminent, with the confidence that this will be supported by the demonstrated demand.

Our first cohort is a measurement of success for both the individuals and the communities they touch. We've been able to create vision carriers that will continue the work we have started to empower a lighter and brighter future.

100% attendance 

100% graduation 

100% in some type of paid employment

More about LightForce 


Runner Up: Tū Mai Rā Energy for Te Orewai Hapū Marae in Pipiwai, Whangarei

Te Orewai Te Horo Trust is a rurally isolated hapū, 40 kms NW of Whangarei. During COVID the Trust realised only they would be responsible for their own whanau and hapū of 400 whanau living in the 7000-acre bubble at the kaingā. The Trust identified 87 vulnerable households who live in poor housing conditions with typically low low socio economic and poor health outcomes. The Trust engaged Tū Mai Rā Energy to assist them to design a solar system that will provide resilience, reduce energy costs and improve health and wellbeing outcomes for whānau.

Tū Mai Rā Energy designed a solution to install a virtual solar power network across Te Orewai Hapū Marae in Pipiwai. The objective of this solution is to utilise the large roof space available on the marae to generate power and distribute the power produced by the solar panels to whānau in their home. Using the Marae as opposed to trying to install solar panels on houses (some of which may require upgrades to the roof or electrical infrastructure) was proposed to lower the cost of the overall solar installation but deliver similar benefits to whānau within their homes with out disruption to their lives. The system generates enough power to support 87 households low-income whānau suffering energy hardship. 

Māori energy retailer Nau Mai Rā was engaged to provide peer-to-peer services to distribute power to whanau households through its retail energy platform. Each home will receive credits against their power bill for their share of solar produced by the large-scale solar system.

Tū Mai Rā Energy not only led the design and install but assisted in developing a successful proposal for funding from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The project fit MBIE requirements to demonstrate community need, innovation and health and well being outcomes for whanau in the home.
The whanaunga connection underpins and strengthens the Trusts collaboration with Tū Mai Rā Energy, Nau Mai Rā and MBIE. This integrated implementation model combines project management, innovation, technology and funding to deliver a project that has inspired 10+ other Marae to replicate this solution. 

In these days of ridiculous numbers of homelessness, the Trust is developing a Papakaingā strategy and plan to support whanau to return home to live on their tē puna whenua. In the future the Trust hopes to support whanau to pathway through the maze of housing on whenua māori, to affordable, healthy homes that have renewable energy powering their whare.

Through the utilisation of solar technology the Marae can now further improve the lives of whanau through peer to peer sharing of energy. This enables whanau to access renewable energy cheaply without having to maintain and install a solar system on their home. It also gives whanau incentive to move home and brings more engagement with whanau and their marae improving social cohesion within the Te Orewai Hapū. By connecting with their marae, whanau can now use more power and pay less therefore reducing energy costs and improving health and social wellbeing.

More about Tū Mai Rā Energy

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